Connecticut Highway Project Delayed After Asbestos Discovery

Posted on November 22, 2016

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) has placed a halt on an I-95 construction project near Stratford after asbestos was found in the soil. Preliminary design work for the reconstruction of Exit 33 on I-95 in Stratford had just begun when the asbestos was uncovered.

“There is no reason to believe at this time that the asbestos, which is a known carcinogen, found at the Exit 33 project site is posing an exposure concern to workers or the community,” Dept. of Public Health Commissioner (DPH) Dr. Raul Pino said in a Nov. 4 press release from the Connecticut Dept. of Transportation.

Asbestos is a human carcinogen and is known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. Often called “asbestos cancer,” mesothelioma is a highly aggressive, incurable cancer with few treatment options. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

However, asbestos does not pose a risk unless the fibers become airborne where they can be inhaled or ingested. When asbestos fibers are inhaled they become lodged in the thin membrane that lines and encases the lungs. The fibers settle into the lungs, and decades later, symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain develop.

CTDOT, in conjunction with the DPH, believe they caught the issue early and have avoided any potential health hazards. Beginning in mid-November, the two departments will conduct air and ground sampling and monitoring to fully assess the situation and to “measure specific air soil asbestos levels.” Based on the data, the team will recommend the next steps.

“The air and ground monitoring is a prudent and precautionary strategy,” said CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker. “In the coming weeks, motorists may see crews along the highway conducting these tests. To date, we are unaware of any adverse effects to anyone in this vicinity. We will continue to advise workers and the people of Connecticut as developments warrant.”

The asbestos is suspected to be from Raymark Industries, a company known to have used asbestos in its products. The Stratford plant manufactured automotive brakes, clutch parts, and other friction components, primarily for the automotive industry from 1919 until 1989 when operations ceased, according to the EPA. The location is now a Superfund site.

According to the press release, the construction area was not investigated during testing conducted by the EPA in the 1990s of more than 500 properties because there was no evidence of Raymark waste in the area. In September, the EPA announced its final cleanup plan for several Raymark waste areas and will address the Exit 33 area.

“We are working closely with DOT, state and local health agencies, and the U.S. EPA to ensure that this area is managed in a manner that minimizes risk to public health or the environment,” said Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee.  “Our goal is to work together to make certain the public and on-site workers are protected from exposures to any contaminated soil both now and in the future.”

Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. There is no cure for the aggressive cancer.